Russia jails Pussy Riot members for World Cup pitch invasion

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Soccer Football - World Cup - Final - France v Croatia - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - July 15, 2018 Stewards apprehend a pitch invader as Croatia's Dejan Lovren reacts REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Russia on Monday jailed four members of Pussy Riot feminist punk group for 15 days after they invaded the pitch during the World Cup final dressed in police uniforms.

A Moscow court sentenced Veronika Nikulshina, Olga Kuracheva, Olga Pakhtusova and Pyotr Verzilov to 15 days in police cells and also banned them from visiting sports events for three years, Mediazona court news site reported.

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They were found guilty of “grossly violating the rules for spectators’ behaviour” and given the maximum punishment possible under the charge.

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Verzilov is the founder of Mediazona website, which reports on trials of rights activists.

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The four ran onto the pitch at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium on Sunday and briefly halted play in the second half of the match between France and Croatia, watched by President Vladimir Putin and world leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron.

Pussy Riot immediately posted messages on social media claiming responsibility for the protest and issuing a list of six political demands.

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“Let all political prisoners free,” said the first.

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Others included an end to arrests at peaceful rallies and to “allow political competition in the country”.

Pussy Riot is most famous for performing an anti-Putin protest song in a central Moscow church in February 2012.

Three of the group’s members were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” at a trial that attracted global media attention and drew protests from rights groups.

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Group members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were released after serving 22 months of their two-year sentences.

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The other convicted member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was given a suspended sentence.

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